NR’s perspective on Thomas-Keefer’s perspective


Last week’s editorial carried the Letter to the Editor from the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority(IWVGA) General Manager Carol Keefer. She noted that the letter reflected her “perspective.”

The News Review attempted to clarify what we considered erroneous and misleading statements. First and foremost it needs to be made clear that the Basin has not been in “critical overdraft” for decades as was stated as a fact by Keefer. It is only an assumption, not a fact. The Department of Water Resources (DWR) declared the Basin in critical overdraft in 2014.

Until we come to terms with that assumption resolving our water future is next to impossible. I will try again to briefly set the record straight.

The jury is still out how much the Basin recharge is annually. Available peer-reviewed studies show evidence of 30,000 acre feet to 46,000 acre feet annually. The Todd Engineers Report of 2014 states 7,650 acre feet annual recharge. Be reminded there is a measurable difference in a “peer-reviewed study” and a “report.” It also bears repeating that the President of Todd Engineers, Dr. Iris Priestoff, told the News Review that she was surprised at how much weight was placed on the report. She recommended that more studies need to be done.

Common sense should tell us that the entire future of the valley should not be based on incomplete report especially if the president of the concern recommends further studies. Please understand why we must demand a data driven scientific approach in resolving our water future.

Referring to Keefer’s “perspective” she stated, “The Basin’s needs have been significantly reduced through positive conservation measures, leaving no other options for sustainability other than importing water at considerable cost.” This is the understatement of the year. The total average annual cost for imported water for the next ten years is projected to be from four to seven million dollars with the required infrastructure for imported water being one hundred million dollars or more. The estimated time would be fifteen years for completion.

It has been frequently stated from the dais by several of the GA board members that imported water is not affordable, people could not afford to live here. To add to that preposterous equation with the many basins vying for water the availability of water is highly questionable. The GA’s hired agency, Capital Core, has been unable thus far to come up with a viable source.

So back to the real world. Let’s get busy following up on the exploration of known existing sources of local water, such as the El Paso area. This will be discussed in next week’s edition.

Regarding replenishment fees: Included the replenishment fee is the shallow wells mitigation fees which $17.50 per acre foot.

As explained in the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority Water Marketing Strategy Technical Memo of August 2019 (Water Marketing Memo), and the 2017 Department of Water Resources State Water Project Delivery Capability Report, the long term reliability of State Water Project deliveries is sixty-two percent (62%). Therefore, in order to achieve actual deliveries of 5000 acre feet, the Augmentation Project would need to obtain permanent allocation of 8,065 acre feet of water.

An analysis was conducted for approximately 872 shallow wells in the Basin (832 domestic/private wells, 40 mutual water company wells, and community service district wells) for potential impacts during the implementation of the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP). The shallow well impact analysis results indicated that most shallow wells would experience minimal drawdown, but that approximately 22 shallow wells would require mitigation due to the chronic lowering of groundwater levels and reduction of groundwater in storage in the Basin within the GSP planning horizon. As provided for in the GSP, it is anticipated that the mitigation costs will total $2,020,000. This reflects anticipated costs of $70,000 in development/engineering work and $1,650,000 in implementation/capital costs for the rehab and/or replacement of 22 impacted wells. Per year costs of $20,000 for 15 years, for a total of $300,000 is assumed for reviewing shallow well applications and reporting to the IWVGA Board.

Keefer states that 1 in 10 shallow wells will be damaged by 2030 that would be 87.2 wells, and increasing to 1 in 4 by 2040 that would be 218 wells damaged, yet the Engineer’s Report says 22 wells would require mitigation.

Keefer’s “perspective” is 10 times what the Engineers Report estimates.

Resource Manager Steve Johnson commented in the last GA meeting: (07-14-21)

“One of the things we’ve talked about from the very beginning, if you want to go out and buy imported water, you need to make sure you’re using all of your local resources first before you start looking someplace else, implement all your conservation programs, do all those things first.” To this we heartily agree.

Next week we will discuss the exploration of local available water.

Patricia Farris, Publisher

Story First Published: 2021-08-06